Extracellular Matrix-Inspired Growth Factor Delivery Systems for Skin Wound Healing
Significance: Growth factors are very promising molecules for the treatment of skin wounds. However, their translation to clinical use has been seriously limited, facing issues related to safety and cost-effectiveness. These problems may derive from the fact that growth factors are used at vastly supra-physiological levels without optimized delivery systems. Recent Advances: The extracellular matrix (ECM) plays a fundamental role in coordinating growth factor signaling. Therefore, understanding the mechanisms by which the ECM modulates growth factor activity is key for designing efficient growth factor-based therapies. Recently, several growth factor-binding domains have been discovered within various ECM proteins, and growth factor delivery systems integrating these ECM growth factor-binding domains showed promising results in animal models of skin wound healing. Moreover, a novel strategy consisting of engineering growth factors to target endogenous ECM could substantially enhance their efficacy, even when used at low doses. Critical Issues: Optimal delivery of growth factors often requires complex engineered biomaterial matrices, which can face regulatory issues for clinical translation. To simplify delivery systems and render strategies more applicable, growth factors can be engineered to optimally function with clinically approved biomaterials or with endogenous ECM present at the delivery site. Future Directions: Further development and clinical trials will reveal whether growth factor-based therapies can be used as main therapeutic approaches for skin wound healing. The future impact of these therapies will depend on our capacity to deliver growth factors more precisely, to improve efficacy, safety, and cost-effectiveness.